David Higgins and Peter Lawrie revved up their engines for next week’s Irish Open with opening 67s in the BMW International Open in Munich.
The pair are four strokes adrift of first round leader Ernie Els, who shot a nine under par 63 to take a one shot lead on a low scoring opening day at first round at Golfclub München Eichenried.
Higgins kept a bogey of his card and had just 24 putts, picking up five birdies in a five under par effort to built a solid foundation as he bids to haul himself up from a perilous 192nd in the Race to Dubai standings.
Lawrie missed just two greens in his round, picking up four birdies in 10 holes before coming back from dropped shots at the 11th and 14th with gains at the 15th, 17th and 18th.
Level par with four to play, world No 86 Shane Lowry eagled the par-five sixth and then birdied the par-five ninth for a three under 69 that was good enough for a share of 50th on day when 99 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Gareth Maybin’s level par 72 was tied for 100th as Els, who finished tied for sixth at the BMW PGA Championship last month and in a share of fourth at last week’s US Open, fired five birdies in an outward 31 having started at the tenth on a lengthened Golfclub München Eichenried layout.
The reigning Open Champion then turned for home with a 40 foot birdie at the short second, before producing one of the shots of the day at the par five sixth.
With water looming large by the side of the green and having found the right rough, Els fired a brilliant fairway wood approach from almost 250 yards to within five feet of the hole to set up a sublime eagle.
Els almost replicated that feat at the ninth, where another eagle would have seen him equal the course record, but a two-putt birdie still proved good enough for a one stroke lead.
“It seems like it’s really a day of scoring today,” said Els. “If you shoot a really low one, it’s nice. It takes the pressure off the rest of the tournament a little bit.
“Although when you’re leading, it doesn’t really mean much until Sunday, but if you get into the race, so to speak, early on in the tournament, it’s nice to be right in the hunt.
“Guys will be shooting low tomorrow morning, but it’s nice to have got a good round under my belt.
“I’ve really been working hard at my game. Especially going into the US Open and around the BMW PGA at Wentworth, I could feel things were coming around a bit. I had a bit of an iffy year up to now, but I really feel that my swing feels good and my body feels good, touch wood. So I can swing the club properly.”
In a tie for second at eight under par is home favourite Martin Kaymer, who took one of the biggest crowds of the afternoon, and he duly rewarded those watching with nine birdies and just a single dropped shot en route to a round of 64.
The former World Number One has tasted success at this event back in 2008, and having adjusted his schedule in the build-up to the first round, he feels confident of more success in front of his home fans.
“The expectations were very high and I put a lot of pressure on myself,” admitted Kaymer.
“Obviously it’s the only tournament we play in Germany, so I’m very pleased.
“I just want to put myself in position, as it’s not so much about really trying to win. I try to put myself in position on Sunday, and then we will see as I think I will have an advantage with the people here and very good support.”
Kaymer is in a tie for second alongside England’s Matthew Baldwin, Sweden’s Alex Noren and fellow afternoon starter Robert-Jan Derksen, who all signed for opening rounds of 64, while Alexander Levy, Tom Lewis and Matthew Nixon are all a shot further back on seven under par.
Bernd Wiesberger had looked like challenging Els’ lead on the back nine during the afternoon, but a couple of dropped shots coming home saw him finish at six under par alongside America’s Dustin Johnson and South Africa’s Brandon Stone, who is making his professional debut in Munich this week.
Stone has also received an invitation for next week’s Irish Open.
Scores after round 1:
63 E Els (RSA),
64 A Noren (Swe), R Derksen (Ned), M Kaymer (Ger), M Baldwin (Eng),
65 M Nixon (Eng), A Levy (Fra), T Lewis (Eng),
66 T Fleetwood (Eng), T Jaidee (Tha), B Stone (RSA), D Johnson (USA), A Sullivan (Eng), P Waring (Eng), J Lagergren (Swe), E Goya (Arg), B Wiesberger (Aut), J Campillo (Esp),
67 D Higgins (Irl), P Lawrie (Irl), M Siem (Ger), P Fowler (Aus), R Wattel (Fra), T Levet (Fra), J Parry (Eng), J Walters (RSA), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), G Havret (Fra),
68 H Stenson (Swe), A Hartø (Den), J Kingston (RSA), V Dubuisson (Fra), M Delpodio (Ita), S Jamieson (Sco), M Manassero (Ita), M Kieffer (Ger), R Fisher (Eng), T Björn (Den), C Günther (Ger), G Bourdy (Fra), M Tullo (Chi), O Floren (Swe), B Ritthammer (Ger), D Drysdale (Sco), J Morrison (Eng), M Jiménez (Esp), D Horsey (Eng), G Stal (Fra), R McEvoy (Eng),
69 N Fasth (Swe), S Kjeldsen (Den), S Lowry (Irl), D Willett (Eng), J Luiten (Ned), S Kapur (Ind), P Price (Wal), C Macaulay (Sco), M Crespi (Ita), M Carlsson (Swe), O Fisher (Eng), B Åkesson (Swe), L Gagli (Ita), M Wiegele (Aut), C Paisley (Eng),
70 A Hansen (Den), D Gaunt (Aus), R Santos (Por), D Van Der Walt (RSA), L Jensen (Den), D Fichardt (RSA), P Uihlein (USA), P Erofejeff (Fin), J Hansen (Den), C Lloyd (Eng), E De La Riva (Esp), K Broberg (Swe), A Snobeck (Fra), M Lampert (Ger), M Lafeber (Ned), T Aiken (RSA), M Lundberg (Swe), F Aguilar (Chi), T Olesen (Den), B Rumford (Aus), T Van Der Walt (RSA),
71 R Bland (Eng), P Casey (Eng), E Grillo (Arg), A Quiros (Esp), A Cañizares (Esp), A Cejka (Ger), P Widegren (Swe), S Garcia (Esp), R Green (Aus), H Wen-Yi (Chn), H Otto (RSA), M Korhonen (Fin), S Benson (Eng), C Montgomerie (Sco),
72 R Gonzalez (Arg), G Lockerbie (Eng), C Lee (Sco), R Finch (Eng), G Maybin (Nir), M Southgate (Eng), I Garrido (Esp), M Warren (Sco), A Kaleka (Fra), L Slattery (Eng), D Küpper (Ger), C Doak (Sco), P Larrazábal (Esp), M Brier (Aut), P Whiteford (Sco), A Tadini (Ita), M Röhrig (am) (Ger),
73 R Jacquelin (Fra), C Del Moral (Esp), J Lara (Esp), M Jonzon (Swe), R Rock (Eng), M Foster (Eng), J Singh (Ind), G Orr (Sco), D Lynn (Eng),
74 G Storm (Eng), D Howell (Eng), M Madsen (Den), S Little (Eng), F Zanotti (Par), D Brooks (Eng), S Arnold (Aus), S Heisele (Ger), J Edfors (Swe), S Hansen (Den), J Quesne (Fra), A Dodt (Aus), S Wakefield (Eng),
75 F Fritsch (Ger), S Henry (Sco), C Cévaër (Fra), J Sjöholm (Swe), R Coles (Eng), J Olazábal (Esp), K Horne (RSA), J Van Zyl (RSA), J Elson (Eng), J Kruger (RSA),
76 S Dyson (Eng), E Kofstad (Nor),
77 G Boyd (Eng),
78 A Marshall (Eng), D Foos (am) (Ger),
79 R Davies (Wal),
80 N Meitinger (Ger),
85 C Schwierz (Ger).